Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Nature Study Journals

One of the most important benefits of a science education is to hone the ability to observe and make your own conclusions. There is perhaps no better way to develop the skills of observation than nature study.

There is no write and wrong answers. There is nothing to memorize. There is just the practice of observing and making conclusions.

For those students who seem a bit intimidated by making their own observations, you might entice them in my combining it with art materials. After all, if the student has been used to their being an answer to memorize, he may not know where to start.
A simple rubbing can be done by even the youngest of students and these can be added to a journal...the beginnings of a journal that they will be proud of.

They can add terms to their nature journals, but I recommend them doing this only when they want to. If they do this when they are ready, they will enjoy this and not feel that it is a drudgery. I always started this by using the terms as they came up when I talked about what we are studying that day. They then wanted to use the terms, too, and in order to learn them, it was easier to make a diagram of them.

Charlotte Mason talks much about the value and benefits of nature study and how to do it. I don't presume to be able to tell you more than she has, and so I will add a few quotes from her to this post.

“They notice for themselves, and the teacher gives a name or other information as it is asked for, and it is surprising what a range of knowledge a child of nine or ten acquires” (Vol. 3, p. 237).

“The child who learns his science from a text-book, though he go to Nature for illustrations, and he who gets his information from object-lessons, has no chance of forming relations with things as they are, because his kindly obtrusive teacher makes him believe that to know about things is the same thing as knowing them personally” (Vol. 3, p. 66).

“The children keep a dated record of what they see in their nature note-books, which are left to their own management and are not corrected. These note-books are a source of pride and joy, and are freely illustrated by drawings (brushwork) of twig, flower, insect, etc.” (Vol. 3, p. 236).

“The children are put in the position of the original observer of biological and other phenomena. They learn what to observe, and make discoveries for themselves, original so far as they are concerned. They are put in the right attitude of mind for scientific observations and deductions, and their keen interest is awakened” (Vol. 3, p. 238).

“One of the secrets of the educator is to present nothing as stale knowledge, but to put himself in the position of the child, and wonder and admire with him” (Vol. 1, p. 54).

So, can nature study substitute for the sciences in the lower grades?
To some degree it can, because the training in observation that it affords will give students a leg up in any future scientific inquiry.

Nature Study, too, can cover topics that you might not think would be considered nature study,  like magnets, climate and weather.

I do prefer a mixture of nature study and scientific inquiry from books on a variety of topics...

but I have noticed that if I begin to leave out nature study, in favor of book  learning...

the thrill in the quest for finding out answers and the feeling that they can be an authority on finding those answers begins to leave them...

and they become passive in their role as learners.

They want to get the answers and be done with the lesson. And they usually remember little from the lessons.

Fortunately it doesn't take long once we begin again with nature studies in earnest for them to regain what they have temporarily lost. 

I encourage you to make nature study a part of your science curriculum and not regard it as one of the "extras."

“As soon as he is able to keep it himself, a nature-diary is a source of delight to a child. Every day’s walk gives him something to enter: three squirrels in a larch tree, a jay flying across such a field, a caterpillar climbing up a nettle, a snail eating a cabbage leaf, a spider dropping suddenly to the ground, where he found ground ivy, how it was growing and what plants were growing with it, how bindweed or ivy manages to climb” (Vol. 1, p. 54).

What are your experiences with nature study?


  1. I am just NOW cluing in that y'all switched! I will be linking up with you later- now that I know you switched (man, WHERE has my brain BEEN?)! :0)

  2. I've always loved your nature studies, we've slacked on it recently. Our routine changed so we haven't done our studies recently.

  3. hey phyllis, it's been halfway since forever that i haven't been over here! it was fun to visit a post with a topic so close to my heart! thanks for sharing. nature study is certainly what keeps it real around here! it's amazing that there's no limit to what to study or how in depth. and just like you said, regular nature studies help keep it alive! :) anytime you want to link up your nature studies at my place, feel free! it's usually up mondays... {NSM!}

  4. I LOVE the journals! Makes me miss our nature study!

  5. Get nature study, we did a lot of this when we lived in England once the temps warm up I will get out again but the cold weather is too much for me:)

  6. You've got some real artists in your family, the drawings are gorgeous!

  7. Such a great post! This is so true. ( the thrill in the quest for finding out answers and the feeling that they can be an authority on finding those answers begins to leave them... ect) Well said. I can also say that the things the children did hands on, exploration style sticks with them. My oldest still recounts many lessons and is now teaching his son in the same self exploration manner.


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